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The Mathematics of Obesity

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the pi-is-tasty dept.

Math 655

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that Carson C. Chow, an MIT-trained mathematician and physicist, has taken a new look at America's obesity epidemic and found that a food glut is behind America's weight problem, with the national obesity rate jumping from 20 percent to over 30 percent since 1970. 'Beginning in the 1970s, there was a change in national agricultural policy. Instead of the government paying farmers not to engage in full production, as was the practice, they were encouraged to grow as much food as they could,' says Chow. 'With such a huge food supply, food marketing got better and restaurants got cheaper. The low cost of food fueled the growth of the fast-food industry. If food were expensive, you couldn't have fast food.' Chow and mathematical physiologist Kevin Hall created a mathematical model of a human with hundreds of equations, boiled it down to one simple equation, and then plugged in all the variables — height, weight, food intake, exercise. The slimmed-down equation proved to be a useful platform for answering a host of questions. For example, huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same. Unfortunately, another finding is that weight change, up or down, takes a very, very long time. Chow has posted an interactive version of the model on the web where people can plug in their information and learn how much they'll need to reduce their intake and increase their activity to lose."

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Fruit is the problem (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014249)

Fruit is the problem - it's full of sugar. I suppose low-sugar fruits are OK then.

Processed sugar is the problem (5, Insightful)

Kergan (780543) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014329)

Fruit isn't so bad, because it has fiber -- this keeps part of the sugar in your bowls, until it gets refined by bacteria and farted. Plus you need the vitamin. Fruit juice is another story: might as well drink beer.

Some videos on sugar from the UC: []

Re:Processed sugar is the problem (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014367)

In that case, just eat legumes - all the fiber (more, actually) with none of the sugar.

Junk food is the problem (1, Troll)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014415)

The term "Junk Food" used to denote things like potato chips, but with the arrival of food glut since the '70s in the States, "Junk Food" now includes the following:

* TV Dinner

No matter how good they look on TV ads, no matter how "nutritious" we are told, TV Dinners are still packed with preservatives, flavor enhancers (MSG), processed starched, and so on

* Take Outs

No matter it's "Moo Goo Gai Pan" from Chinese restaurants or that super yummy pizza from your neighborhood Italian joints, take outs contain super-duper dose of MSGs

* Deliveries and Drive Through

Even the biggies, from Mickey Dees to Pizza Hut are jumping on the bandwagon trying their best to stuff your face - as long as you got the $$$

Re:Junk food is the problem (4, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014499)

Neither preservatives nor flavor enhancers cause obesity. They may be unhealthy to eat for other reasons but when it comes to overweight problems it is calories that count.

Get a copy of The China Study (5, Informative)

transporter_ii (986545) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014919)

Other factors factored in, like activity, Campbell found surprisingly that many Chinese actually consume about 30% more calories than Americans, yet they had incredibly less overweight people. Again, he didn't compare a sedentary American to a field worker in China, he compared them to an office worker in China to make it fair.

So it wasn't just calories, it is the types of food. Processed foods and animal foods are to blame. China actually proves to be an excellent place to study because they have a wide range of groups that live the same way, eat the same way, and live in the same place most of their lives. Campbell found that the more animal foods and processed foods they ate, the more disease and obesity the had. This isn't just junk science, either. You can do the research for yourself. As third world countries get wealthier and adopt a western-style diet, they also adopt western disease rates and obesity. It is not just their genes. If they move here and start eating like us, they get our diseases at the same rates (or higher). There is nothing special about these people other than their diets.

Our diets combined with our lifestyles are killing us here...and if you want to cut your chances of cancer, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses down, the solution is simple. All you have to do is eat like you live in a 3rd world country. Less animal products and processed foods, more whole foods. It's that simple.

I do disagree with Campbell that you *have* to become a vegetarian. They do eat meat in China, just way less of it. But his studies on people that reversed massive heart disease just by becoming vegetarians is fairly impressive.

Re:Junk food is the problem (2, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014503)

Want to find the fattest people in america? they all have two things in common.

1 - they eat fast food constantly.
2 - when they are not eating fast food, they are eating pre-processed food like TV dinners, or other ready to eat foods.

I have yet to find any obese people that are eating fresh fruits and veggies. The crap in cans does not count as that all has added salt and sugar.

It's simple. eat only fresh meat, veggies and fruits. But you have to prepare it yourself, or it must come from a restaurant that starts with ONLY fresh ingredients.

Guarantee you will lose weight if that is the only change you make to your diet.

Re:Junk food is the problem (1, Insightful)

mundanetechnomancer (1343739) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014577)

sounds like a diet that only someone with an above average income could afford

Re:Junk food is the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014789)

It's simple. eat only fresh meat, veggies and fruits.

What a pain. The problem is that I'll be having to go to the store every few days to acquire more fruits and vegetables (since they rot quite quickly).

Re:Junk food is the problem (2)

johnnyb (4816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40015053)

I think you are just looking at a selective sample. My wife and son have health issues, so nearly everything we eat is home-cooked from fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. I'm still pretty large.

Re:Processed sugar is the problem (1)

FilthCatcher (531259) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014765)

I personally find that leaving sugar in the bowl helps me keep off the weight too.

Re:Fruit is the problem (2)

bazim2 (625704) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014349)

Fruit is also full of soluble fiber. The fiber prevents the digestive system from absorbing the sugar as effectively. Our current western diets contain nowhere near enough fiber.

Re:Fruit is the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014407)

Some fruits might be rich in fibre but not all. For instance, apples are low in fiber but high in sugars [] . (Apples are water and sugar and that's about it, the balance being some microscopic amount of minerals.)

That makes apples a poor dietary choice, but it doesn't stop the fruit-industrial complex's fruit-is-good-for-you propaganda. We should be eating less fruit and more vegetables.

Re:Fruit is the problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014451)

Fiber is good only if you smoke it.

Think of fruit this way (2)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014685)

Take an orange and eat it. You feel full, it tasted good. Take a glass of orange juice (an average size glass can have the equivalent of three oranges, thus three times the calories AND with most of the fiber removed). A glass of juice has the same amount of calories as a can of COKE.

Re:Think of fruit this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40015005)

Take an orange and eat it. You feel full, it tasted good.

You must have a remarkably small stomach. When I eat an orange, I feel hungry again half an hour later. Same with most fruit: full of sugar, low on nutrients, doesn't fill you up. It's junk food.

Re:Fruit is the problem (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014441)

Fruit is bad, but so is meat. I think we all know that. Veggies are also a problem with those carbs. Best just to eat water.

long time? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014259)

I'm not sure I agree that losing weight takes a 'very very long time.' I went to eating yogurt for breakfast, soup for lunch and salmon or chicken and broccoli or strawberries and sometimes some almonds here and there as well as switching to Almond milk. I also gave up red meat, most dairy, etc.. and let me tell you -- not to sound hippy-ish but, I never felt better. Combined with walking - I lost 100lbs in a year... and I didn't starve myself. My diet was boring but, it happened in a year and 100lbs is no small feat.

I've also noticed on the other hand that eating like crap -- you can gain a lot of that back. I went from 267 to 169 and now am at 215.. trying again to reach less than 200. It doesn't seem to take some people long to gain it or lose it.

Wish I knew why.

Re:long time? (2)

TemperedAlchemist (2045966) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014285)

3500 Cal in a pound of fat. This means a caloric deficit of ~500 Cal a day is sufficient to lose one pound of fat per week. Of course, this doesn't work out so simply, which is why the equation provided here is so nice.

A lot of the weight lost can be from water -- not just fat. But claims that you can lose 10 lbs. of fat in a week? Complete bullshit.

Re:long time? (1)

GNious (953874) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014437)

I'm currently targeting (and mostly hitting) about 2-2.5 kilo fat-loss per week. I think it might be possible to achieve more in a short burst, but it wouldn't be sustainable in a healthy manner.

To get there, I'm now on ca 1/3 the caloric intake that I had before, where my weight was stable, and it is (as GP mentioned) boring. Will currently have to endure it for at least 4 more months, longer if work keeps getting in the way.

As for dropping 100lbs of fat in 1 year, I think is extreme based on the numbers I'm looking at for myself. Most likely there was some water and some muscle-mass in that loss too.

Re:long time? (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014729)

The starting weight has a big influence on what level of weight loss is healthy or sustainable. I'm slightly overweight by BMI but 8-10kg a month wouldn't be healthy (even 4-5kg is borderline) however if I was carrying another 40+ kg of fat then faster weight loss would be fine. I have to admit that 2.5kg per week is a very heavy diet. Your doctor obviously knows more than I do, and I'm sure it is fine, but I'd estimate that it wouldn't be suitable for most people who are considering trying to lose weight. I hope everything foes well for you.

Re:long time? (3, Informative)

ghostdoc (1235612) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014487)

of course, if you exercise as part of the lifestyle change, you'll be putting on muscle, which weighs a lot more than the fat you're losing.

I've just run the simulator in TFA on my known variables for the last year (I got diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and had to make some very controlled, measured, changes to my lifestyle which got me back to being healthy).
It said I'd have lost over 30Kg over that year. I actually lost just under 10Kg, but went from being unable to run for more than 100m to completing a 12Km fun-run and confidently entering for a half-marathon in 3 months' time. I also lost about 6inches off my waistline (as in I gained a waist!).

Also, humans are not controlled by variables and equations. The equations describe an average person, who doesn't exist. They're useful approximations, but in the end just approximations.

Re:long time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014295)

It's taken me 45 years. Since around the age of 18. I've had a 28 inch waist. Now I'm 45, I have to wear 29 inch waist jeans - with a belt. I'm the skinniest person I know. No matter what or how much I eat, I never gain weight.

Re:long time? (1)

Kergan (780543) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014361)

Skinny != healthy.

What actually counts is the fat in your abdomen, which you cannot see. Not all overweight people have signs of metabolic syndrome, but most do. And some skinny people have it too. 60% and 40% respectively, if memory serves -- figures are from a UC video I can no longer find.

Re:long time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014381)

I never claimed to be healthy, just skinny.

I was commenting on the length of time taken to gain/loose weight. You are correct regarding abdominal fat.

Re:long time? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014617)

Yeah, I wonder what their definition of "a very very long time". 3 years ago during my senior year of college, I lost 30lbs in only 3 months. I did this simply by eating less (didn't change what I ate) and working out only slightly more(as I had been playing football in college the last 4 years, I had already been exercising pretty regularly). So it can be done in what is to me a pretty quick amount of time, without much effort. Of course, over the next 3 years in grad school I put it all back on, but that's a different story.

Re:long time? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014931)

A year is a very long time.

Not really news IMHO (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014281)

That the primary problem with people becoming obese being that they consume too much food is hardly news, nor is it news that food is much more abundant these days than it was in the past.

That said, it is interesting to read about this approach to studying obesity. And the simulator was also kind of interesting although it told me that in order to maintain my current weight I need to increase my energy intake by 300-800 kCal/day (depending on activity level specified) which is sort of odd since I'm currently neither gaining nor losing weight, just maintaining (in case you're wondering about my activity level, I'm at the gym more days than I'm not and I also try to get an hour or two of cardio in every week).

Re:Not really news IMHO (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014341)

More than that even, weight change can go up and down quite drastically in a short period of time, so I'm not sure what the summary is on about. This looks like a case of "mathematical models not accurately representing reality" I reckon.

Re:Not really news IMHO (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014477)

I recently watched Ken Burns' Prohibition documentary, and was struck again and again by how many people were overweight despite the image of Americans back then as skinny.

Re:Not really news IMHO (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014917)

That the primary problem with people becoming obese being that they consume too much food is hardly news, nor is it news that food is much more abundant these days than it was in the past.

I think the real issue is what the underlying root cause is. Obviously if everybody ate less there would be less obesity. The important question is WHY people don't just do it.

Re:Not really news IMHO (3, Interesting)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#40015035)

I suspect one contributing factor is that in the past (100+ years ago) food simply wasn't as abundant as it is today, not to mention that in the 19th century you couldn't just pop a microwave pizza weighing in at 1200+ kCal, wait two minutes and then eat. Cooking took time. Just look at candy, on my way home from work I pass by a grocery store, right next to the checkout they have candy, large 200 gram candybars each packing 1200 kCal or so worth of energy, and they're being sold for less than SEK 20 (~$2.8), even if your income is low that means an hour's worth of work will buy you a lot more than the energy you need in a day.

I don't even want to know how much energy is in proper pizza from a pizzeria but I doubt it's less than 2000 kCal...

Re:Not really news IMHO (0)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014923)

None of this explains how all animals on the planet are becoming obese, including lizards on unpopulated islands!

I have no wish to suggest the average American does not eat too much, and not being in America, I cannot possibly comment. However, lizards on the far side of the world are probably more affected by pollution of the oceans and related food chain with assorted (but now banned) pesticides and hormone related weed killers than high fructose corn syrup. (I may be wrong about this ;-)

Disclaimer: I have lost over 10kg over the past few years.

How about we blame ourslef? (4, Informative)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014299)

The main problem is sugar.

It's everywhere and you don't need it. Drink only water and don't buy any food that has sugar (fructose excluded) in it.

You DON'T need it. You like it because your are an addicted junky.

It really isn't sugar, that is just one avenue (5, Informative)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014385)

Far too many Americans are simply not active. This is compounded by the fact that while not active they have easy access to food that it too conveniently packaged for consumption. I love the people at work who blame medical conditions for their weight while consuming a whole bag of chips or having that bagel covered in cream cheese. People don't know the calories they are consuming and woefully underestimate the amount of them in the foods they eat.

So sugar is only part of the problem. I know lots of people who don't eat cookies, drink soda, or the like, and yet they little walking cubed shaped individuals. All because of the mass amount of carb and fat filled foods they consume.

Gone are the long days and long weeks of manual labor. Instead most Americans sit during their workday and spend only a third of their week at most working and traveling too and from work. I am not declaring that working only forty hours or less is bad; but lets be honest those we know who do more tend to get further; but it did leave many people with way too much time on their hands and they don't know what to do with it.

You can maintain a healthy weight and eat some truly trashy food. As part of a diet and exercise contest we have at work I set out to prove that some seriously trashy breakfast foods could be consumed while losing weight as long as the diet and exercise balanced out. This meant items like donuts or muffins with coffee and cream from Dunkin in the morning every work day for two weeks. Yet followed by sensible lunches and dinners which most of us kept logs for. Those who logged their food showed the most loss. That is the real key, knowing what you eat.

Re:It really isn't sugar, that is just one avenue (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014717)

The above poster is correct: Americans don't exercise, and even when they're not consuming processed sugar they ARE consuming loads of useless starches.

On the exercise front, we don't. Many (economically mobile) Americans have moved away from sidewalked cities and suburban towns into exeburgs (whatever you call them). Fueled by federal DC subsidized roadbuilding welfare, the South and West has gone through a bit of a development boom the last 40 years: build new highways, build new homes connected to it, and profit. The new developments lack both public transportation (which was typically walked to) but it also lacks wide sides on roads (room to bike on the far right), and no sidewalks at all. Building codes _prohibit_ neighborhood grocery/convenience stores so now it's a 25 minute drive to get eggs and milk. No matter how fat you are, sporting a goatee, baseball cap, and sleeveless oversized Dont Tread On Me shirt won't slim you ANY. A larger truck wont help you any either.

America's transportation system was designed by Americans, but you could easily convince me it was designed by haters of America who wanted an economic time bomb. Not only is the obesity problem killing us, but so are the transportation issues. In a suburban state, looking for work means DRIVING... lots of it.. and the fuel cost can easily exceed one's savings or unemployment insurance. It's not a question of when things return to fantasy normal, but when people see the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming right for them. Try going 3 days without a car to see how you and your development are prepared for $10 gasoline (which is inevitable as more and more of the world buys cars.. hey, you told them to, remember?).

Oh yeah. Cut back on the sugar AND starch (notice I did not say carbs), and whatever exercise you do will have more impact. Try mashed cauliflower folks, instead of mashed potato.

Re:It really isn't sugar, that is just one avenue (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014721)

So sugar is only part of the problem. I know lots of people who don't eat cookies, drink soda, or the like, and yet they little walking cubed shaped individuals. All because of the mass amount of carb and fat filled foods they consume.

Then there's the successful dieters who still sit on their ass, and that ass is flat. I see women all the time who are conventionally attractive, but they just look frail and I'm afraid I'd hurt 'em. Sitting on ass is likely to become the new fat, which used to be a sign that you were rich. Now the sign of being rich is that you are thin but weak since you can afford to eat the best food, and afford to go to the dietician, but you don't do anything for yourself.

Re:It really isn't sugar, that is just one avenue (2)

ayjay29 (144994) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014949)

>>while consuming a whole bag of chips or having that bagel covered in cream cheese

I love American food...

I visited the US for a week a while ago, and gained 3 kg (5 lb), I was aiming for 5 kg. If you go to Prague you go an a beer binge, in Amsterdam its a drugs bunge, but if you go to the US you go on a food binge.

I worked out that if I lived there for a year I would weigh about 230 kb (460 lb).

Re:It really isn't sugar, that is just one avenue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40015011)

* You can maintain a healthy weight and eat some truly trashy food. *

Absolutely. I eat a terrible diet of mostly soda/snack foods and I play hours of video games at home....but I'm 37, 6' even, and weigh 160lbs. For me it's a combination of being a bench chemist at work, a reasonably active runner, and I never eat till I'm full. Take any one of those away and I'm sure I'd really pack on the pounds.

Re:It really isn't sugar, that is just one avenue (5, Interesting)

merlinokos (892352) | more than 2 years ago | (#40015039)

I am not declaring that working only forty hours or less is bad; but lets be honest those we know who do more tend to get further;

Science and reality both say you, and those whose viewpoints you represent are deluded.
Labor, experiments, and industry all agree that a 40-hour work week is better for everybody - individuals and companies. Productivity by people who regularly work more than 40 hours per week is lower than those who work 40 hours.
The only reason people get ahead for working longer hours is because a generation of managers appears to have been taught to think that bums in seats = productivity. So longer hours = increased likelihood of promotion. It's a vicious cycle that's fuelled by people like yourself who speak with no understanding of how the human mind and body work. As a matter of fact, /. posted an article on this very subject [] 2 months ago today.

Re:How about we blame ourslef? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014469)

I'm pretty sure the human brain requires glucose.

SUGAR is POISON (2, Insightful)

arcite (661011) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014497)

Yes, go watch this youtube vid: Sugar: the Bitter Truth []

Sugar IS indeed a poison, like fact, alcohol and sugar both get turned into FAT, which is killing us because we eat too damn much of it.

Anyway, on a personal note, I have cut out sugary drinks (no sodas) I only allow a few coke zeros (yes I know they are also poison, but I still drink a couple a month). Similarly, cut out fast food, white bread, beef, anything processed, juice, salt. Cook everything yourself then you know what goes in it. Eat natural foods. Once you know how to cook, it will be better than any restaurant anyway. You can always use the freshest ingredients. Anyway, eating healthy and being a normal weight (got a bmi of 21.5, but still fat!) is easy to achieve with a little knowledge and exercise.


ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014647)

>Sugar IS indeed a poison, like fact, alcohol and sugar both get turned into FAT, which is killing us because we eat too damn much of it.

"Poison" usually means an acute toxicity, not just something that will make us high in fat. (And yes, I've watched that video before and recommended it to my personal trainer.) I cut sugar entirely out of my diet a year or two ago, as much as is practical (i.e. checking food labels and not eating anything with sugar in it). I haven't drunk soda in years (maybe a couple cokes in the last four or five years, total). Didn't matter. Still was gaining weight slightly. The nice thing about being off sugar was that I got a LOT less hungry during the day. But I was still eating a lot.

So a couple months ago I decided I'd simply start eating less, while maintaining a fairly high level of activity (I work out about 5 days a week, martial arts and the like). Lo and behold! I've lost 14 pounds. Haven't really been hungry. When I get hungry, I eat a little bit, and I tend to get full very quickly. Had one food dream, but that was about it.


Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014777)

tl;dr version: you ate less food, exercised more, and lost weight. Cutting sugar out of your diet had absolutely nothing to do with that because you still ate like a pig. Oink.

Why is this appropriate? (4, Funny)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014301)

Why is this appropriate for Slashdot, for the math, or for the obesity?

Re:Why is this appropriate? (3, Insightful)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014307)

Or the java installer

Re:Why is this appropriate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014373)

Or the buritto installer.

Re:Why is this appropriate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014511)

Both. They'r not mutually exclusive.

eat less (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014305)

Hey, fat people - eat less!

You are consciously lifting that food and putting it in your mouth, chewing and swallowing.

Just stop doing that so much and you'll get thinner.

I guarantee it.

Re:eat less (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014379)

Just like drug addicts are consciously taking their drugs.

Re:eat less (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014701)

Except where there is physiological dependency, yes, exactly. That's the point.

The problem for drug addicts is that they take drugs.

The problem for fatties is that they eat too much.

The problem is not that food or drugs are too easily accessible, or that their bodies magically make them fat or give them organ failure and psychosis.

The problem is that they are introducing the food or drugs into their body.

The solution must involve stopping that introduction.

Everyone knows that an alcoholic must stop drinking and that a junkie must stop taking drugs, by whatever method. But it's still not acceptable to say the equivalent for fatties: a fatty should stop eating so much. What's so hard about this?

Why the Campaign to Stop America's Obesity Fails (4, Insightful)

martijnd (148684) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014309) []

According to this its a change of diet (as in the promoted healthy diet is anything but) in the 1970's and way too many sugars.

Wrong Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014313)

Step 1.Completely (or as much as reasonably possible) eliminate fructose from your diet.
Step 2. Win.

The fact that people are eating more is not due to supply, its due to the fact that their natural appetite inhibitor is ruined by eating fructose. (See step 1)
You cannot expect to lose weight purely by expending energy. (See step 1, and after you've lost weight, you'll _want_ to exercise, but you won't _need_ to)

Re:Wrong Again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014425)

People like Robert Lustig are part of the problem. Lustig, for example, points out, correctly, that fructose is the problem (it provides calories without providing any satiety, so you keep eating, among other awful effects), but Lustig's counterproductive answer is to eat more fruit - which is full of fructose.

This is because of Lustig's flimsy notion that fiber magically prevents you absorbing fructose (something he never elaborates on, so I don't know whether or not to believe him).

Re:Wrong Again (1)

Fished (574624) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014485)

It's not a "magical notion". Fiber in fruit keeps fructose in the gut, where it is digested by gut flora and turned into tasty flatulence. I happen to know this because my daughter is fructose intolerant.

Re:Wrong Again (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014527)

I'd love to feed your daughter some apples and oranges and have her fart in my face.

Re:Wrong Again (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014551)

The simpler solution is just to not eat fruit in the first place, and eat something more nutritious than watery sugarballs instead.

Re:Wrong Again (4, Interesting)

codeButcher (223668) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014687)

Apparently (IANA Dietician), some fruit contain more Fructose than Glucose, which makes the fructose load more problematic. See for instance [] , which has lists. Fructose is further problematic in that it chelates some other nutrients, like Zinc and Iron, removing them from the digestive tract and preventing them from being absorbed (can't find the paragraph on Wikipedia anymore, might be wrong.)

There's another article ( that did the rounds this morning about the negative effects of fructose on learning and memory.

Of course, this article also mentions omega-3 fatty acids, which are sorely lacking in the modern western diet that relies heavily on wheat, corn, soy and sunflower, as well as on meats, dairy and eggs "grain fed" on these crops instead of natural green pasture. This lack (or rather the imbalance between omega-3 and omega-6 content in modern food because of this) also contributes to obesity (and other "lifestyle diseases" like cancer and diabetes).

Drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014315)

I now buy raw food and cook it myself, I even bake the bread myself. And, my calorie intake dropped -- I am just less hungry, I do not crave for food in the middle of night, etc. My small cereal breakfast supplies me with energy well till afternoon.

The highly processed food is tasty and burns fast in some addictive way. People have refined the recipes for hundreds of years to make the food just that -- it has been a selective process that promoted the most addictive variants.

Fortunately, the art of making food for people that think, that the real taste is not a copious amount of simple sugars and sodium glutamate, has survived as well.

Re:Drugs (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014523)

Baking your own bread makes HUGE changes in diet. Most bread in the store has a metric buttload of sugars added simply because they can. home made bread has t he minimum needed and it is usually consumed by the yeast.

Want to make that baked bread better? slow rise in the fridge overnight. the yeast will consumer more sugars and add in a lot more flavors. Sourdoughs are the best for you.

Re:Drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014991)

I make a full grain bread based on sourdough, and it rises about 12h even in the room temperature.

It has a strong deep taste, that intensifies over time. It also can be cut into very thin slices, what pairs well with the strong taste.

And the thin slices mean less starch, and less starch in one diet component means looking for energy elsewhere, and that in turn means more diversified diet overall.

Source code would be nice (1)

YttriumOxide (837412) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014337)

A cursory look at the app and I can see some definite uses. I've been wanting to create (mostly for my wife and myself; but theoretically for others later as open source) a personalised diet planner application based on some fuzzy logic, the "USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference" data, and user input for common/preferred/available meals. Combining it with the formula used in this simulator would be really helpful.

Unfortunately, I don't actually see the formula or source code to the app anywhere on the linked pages. Am I just missing it somewhere?

Re:Source code would be nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40015037)

It has serious issues. For one thing it doesn't take into account a persons frame size. At 83kg and roughly 178cm, it's estimating my body fat at 20.3%, the problem though is that I have a large frame and I'm slim enough that I can just about see my ribs.

Simplified (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014347)

Here is the mathematics of obesity:

input > output

Re:Simplified (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014455)

Don't you mean "input = output"?

Re:Simplified (1)

reub2000 (705806) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014759)

Um no. He was writing to a file named output.

The results could be interesting, (1)

tehlinux (896034) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014391)

but I gave up after about the 20th dialogue box.

Re:The results could be interesting, (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014521)

but I gave up after about the 20th dialogue box.

This is one of those apps where the "help" instructions are more complicated than going in and using it.

This is some model (1)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014395)

"Well, what do people do when there is extra food around? They eat it! This, of course, is a tremendously controversial idea. However, the model shows that increase in food more than explains the increase in weight."

So he's not just modelling physiology, he's also modelling economic decisions? And he's modelling the impacts of various government policies?

I wouldn't be surprised if poor people ate more food when the price went down, as they are highly affected by food costs, and they are the ones who experienced the largest increases in obesity. I'm just skeptical because he seems to be making some very broad conclusions from such a specific piece of research.

Predicting the next 100 posts (5, Informative)

sco08y (615665) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014429)

Just so we can get them out of the way:

"I tried diet X and lost Y pounds, thus clearly establishing that substance Z is causing everyone to become fat."

"Moral failing Q is the real culprit! We need government policy R! I have no proof!"

"I'm from country C and we have no fat people. You Americans are fat, and I have a ridiculous accent!"

Re:Predicting the next 100 posts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014475)

> I'm from country C and we have no fat people.
> You Americans are fat

Well, to be fair....
*Nobody* does land whales like the US of A :-)

Re:Predicting the next 100 posts (1, Troll)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014515)

The norms upsetting the fatties again? They should stop. Stop it. Stop it now.

"I'd go to the gym but gas prices make it too expensive a journey"

"I can't afford fresh food"

"My genetics make me eat birthday cake"

"They don't make push-bikes large enough for my frame"

"The objects on my desk have started to orbit me"

"I don't like sports; I only like birthday cake"

"It's my birthday and it's my cake"

"Fatties run in my family! Well, actually they waddle, and the scooter only travels at a walking pace"

"Nom, nom, nom. Birthday cake."

"I haven't seen my cock in years"

"I have cake; who's birthday is it?"

"Using the Type-two-diabetes diet, I lost 20 kilos and a leg"

"Birthday cake!"

Re:Predicting the next 100 posts (1)

N1AK (864906) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014763)

The food cost argument is one I find particularly disheartening to hear. You can buy bananas as cheaply as most snacks. Wholegrain rice/pasta isn't expensive. Tinned spinach costs something like 10-20 pence (as is a healthy choice). I have trouble losing weight and am slightly heavier than I'd like so I won't pretend I'm the role model for dieting but I can say for sure that healthy eating is probably cheaper than not.

Re:Predicting the next 100 posts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014569)

Sorry dude, it's not doing any good. Nice try though.

The perfect "fat" storm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014431)

The late 70s created the "perfect storm" as it were for obesity to take off....Up until the late 70s obesity was relatively constant in the US, but then skyrocketed, and no matter what your favorite cause for this rapid increase, you will find it in the late 70s. We had:
Nixons ag reforms
High-fructose corn syrup becoming mainstream
Peak factory employment(marking a trend towards more sedentary work)
And McDonalds introduced the happy meal toy, helping get kids hooked early :P Hell you could even blame the backlash against smoking that started in the 70s for some of the gain(esp. if you are a smoker) as many smokers turned from niccotine to food to get their fix...

and at least hundreds of parameters? (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014445)

> created a mathematical model of a human with hundreds of equations

and at least hundreds of parameters?

Re:and at least hundreds of parameters? (1)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014581)

In 1978 the mathematics of obesity were a bit simpler. We only used one equation and it went something like this: fatty, fatty 2 by 4, couldn't fit though the kitchen door. Often this computation was performed while exercising. Note that there were a lot fewer fat people in America back when the modeling was simpler.

They need an MIT mathemathician to tell that?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014479)

I'm italian, I went to the US many times as a tourist, and I noticed the huge amount of fat people there. I'm not a mathemathician, but I just need to watch an american fast food to understand what the problem is: hamburgers, hot dogs, fried fries and sugar beverages. Just DON'T get them, NEVER, not even on your birthday. Is it so difficult to understand?!

Eat healthy things, usually they are also tasteful (of course I could suggest the italian food, we have only 8% obesity rate here...), go running in the park 2-3 times a week, and - most of all - have a lot of sex. :D

American calories different from European ones? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014501)

It’s so easy for someone to go out and eat 6,000 calories a day.

the number of calories available to the average American grew by about 1,000 a day.

I don't know, but I hear 2200 kcal is about normal for a male my size. I can't begin to imagine it being "easy" to eat triple my daily food intake.

At the same time,

the conventional wisdom of 3,500 calories less is what it takes to lose a pound of weight is wrong

Typically 100 grams of fat => 900 kcal but apparently 3500kcal per 454 grams would suggest 770 kcal per gram of fat.

What's going on here?

So the obvious conclusion is.. (1)

second_coming (2014346) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014507)

put the price of food up. Not what people want to hear nor really what should be done, but putting up the price of food would make the average person thinner.

In an ideal world we would show restraint and only eat what we needed to, but human nature makes most people eat lots of food when it is cheap and easily available.

A few problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014529)

1) There is an obesity epidemic among children too young to ever have been to a fast-food restaurant.
2) Babies are fat, but babies have always been fat.
3) Exercise is good, but has a very limited effect on weight. Most food energy is used to keep our core temperature up. Ask any lizard.
4) There is an obesity epidemic among other mammals, including zoo animals that are on controlled diets.

Conclusions: The obesity epidemic is most likely caused by an endocrine disruptor that affects many or all mammals. Also, most obesity theories are faith-based crap.

Re:A few problems (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014697)

>>The obesity epidemic is most likely caused by an endocrine disruptor that affects many or all mammals.

Yes, the endocrine disruptor is called "McDonalds".

Whenever it is introduced to a country, the obesity rates skyrocket.

Chowing down... (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014535)

So, Chow found that Americans chow down on cheap chow too much...

Model Validation ? (1)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014541)

A mathematical model is a simplification of the underlying system. That means it is worthless unless validated against experiments. Even after validation, the model cannot make predictions ouside the range where it has been validated.

Statements like "huge variations in your daily food intake will not cause variations in weight, as long as your average food intake over a year is about the same" seem go way outside where there could possibly have been any experimental validation, and suggest that this MIT researcher doesn't know what he's doing. (Either that, or TFS is wrong, but that would never happen on /. )

Re:Model Validation ? (1)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014861)

Yup, here's a mathematical model:


My prediction is that the obesity epidemic is hopeless - people will gain weight no matter what you do. Oh, and best not to live near a graveyard - one of these days one of those old people buried there will collapse into a singularity.

Now let's have a round of useless speculation about what my results mean, without calling into question the fact that a model is not reality.

java???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014625)

And here I though java was completely dead on the internet

Re:java???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014669)

> And here I thought java was completely dead on the internet

can someone please convert the thing to something with no connection to oracle?

Corn and Processed Grains (5, Interesting)

Riggity (1344893) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014663)

Newsweek had a nice writeup [] about obesity and consumption of processed grains that pairs well with this story.

she arrived in New York in 1934 and was "startled" by the number of fat kids she saw - "really fat ones, not only in clinics, but on the streets and subways, and in schools." What makes Bruch's story relevant to the obesity problem today is that this was New York in the worst year of the Great Depression, an era of bread lines and soup kitchens, when 6 in 10 Americans were living in poverty. The conventional wisdom these days - promoted by government, obesity researchers, physicians, and probably your personal trainer as well - is that we get fat because we have too much to eat and not enough reasons to be physically active. But then why were the PC- and Big Mac - deprived Depression-era kids fat? How can we blame the obesity epidemic on gluttony and sloth if we easily find epidemics of obesity throughout the past century in populations that barely had food to survive and had to work hard to earn it?

From my personal experience, I recently lost a lot of weight. The biggest shift I made to burn off fat was to drastically reduce how much grain I consumed weekly. I exercised about the same amount during the time, but the weight loss tracked pretty closely to my change in diet.

Re:Corn and Processed Grains (2)

Rich0 (548339) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014889)

Interesting. I think another factor that people ignore is epigenetics. It was found that the incidence rate of diabetes in some town in Europe that had good records seemed to be related to what people's grandparents ate.

I have no idea whether it is true, but if there are epigenetic factors at work, then the best we can hope to do is prevent obesity in kids who have not been born yet, or find some way to manipulate our own epigenetic programming.

Re:Corn and Processed Grains (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014985)

drastically reduce how much grain I consumed weekly

What about potatoes? Did you consume more, less, or the same amount during this time?

I think it is more likely... (2)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014665)

... that the advent of Television (watching movies together, cartoons, simpsons, etc) was much more damaging. How many people are glued to TV or a screen in case of the net these days?

The truth is our minds find it easier to find positively stimulating things on screens then being active.

It's a conspiracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014695)

I've seen V, it's all about fattening us up like livestock to eaten. It's the only thing that makes any sense. It's almost impossible to buy any food that isn't filled with either some form of Salt or Sugar. You have to pay a premium to eat anything that's good for you. I KNOW THE TRUTH!

Unfortunately (1)

chesterVonWinchester (2051198) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014725)

I won't partake in diet plans that don't involve N easy steps or miracle fruits.

How is this news? (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014881)

It has long been known that one kg of fat is 7000 (kilo)calories (sorry about mixed units).

So if you eat just 100 more calories per day than you expend, you put on a about a pound a month.

And another rule of thumb - for each kg of body weight you need one (kilo)calorie to travel a mile - regardless if you walk, jog or run. So my 6 mile run burns 540 calories - and if I do that for 7 days without eating more I'll loose 500g.

Just follow the physics diet. (3, Informative)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014943)

I think I found this here like 5 years ago and I've kept it since. []

I've emailed Richard last year by the way and he's still the weight he achieved in that article 9 years later.

FWIW: I'm an endomorph who DOES believe that some people hold weight easier, crave carbs and sugar more than others and have a lower BMR. However science is science - these things only make up a small fraction of the work. 95%+ is simply putting in the effort.

I can also confirm that adjusting diet is far, far far more rewarding than excercise for weight loss, despite other health benefits. Just as his article says.

I eat Paleo (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40014947)

Lots of meat, almost NO carbs (under 50g a day) tons of green veggies. Lost 11 lb in the first week and around 5 lb/week afterward. I will reach my and since I cook all the stuff I eat, maintenance is easy since good habits are now a given. Grok on!

Duh? (5, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 2 years ago | (#40014987)

This is news?
When I was a kid, and McDonald's were few and far between (early 70s) a McDonald's "meal" was a hamburger, fries, and drink.

That's a single hamburger, what is now a small fries, and a small beverage. That was a satisfying full meal for an adult. Is that even a kids meal any more?

Another example, I believe it was mentioned by a poster on slashdot. He was remodeling a 100yr-old farmhouse and he hadn't planned to, but found he had to rip out the cabinets as they were too small - the only plates that fit in the cupboard were the 9" (small) dinner plates, not our today-common 12" dinner plates.

Finally, I was talking with a friend that runs a restaurant. I asked him why their portion sizes were so massive. His response was that it was to camouflage the prices with extra food, since food prices were cheap - it's the labor that drives costs. If he offered a moderately-sized meal, it might cost $8. If he was to DOUBLE the amount of food on that plate, it would cost perhaps +$1. Conversely, cutting the amount of food in half would only save $1. Consumers are far more willing to pay $9 for a GIANT pile of food (they feel they're getting a bargain), than $7 for 1/4 the food. On the latter, they feel they're being ripped off.

News from a slim man (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40015029)

As to the comment above that sugar is poison, then why, with my voracious sweet tooth, am I still alive and healthy at 66?

    I have never been fat. As a result, I have been able to see what starts making me fat. The culprits are:

1. Soda pop. This is possibly the greatest fat producer. If you want to stay slim, you have to swear off soda pop. Sweet tea is as bad. I knew a bus driver that said he couldn't stop gaining weight. Every time I woud see him, he would be carrying a humongous Big Gulp from 7-eleven (a huge fountain drink). A new crew member at a gas pipeline service company complained to me that he was gaining weight like never before. The crew always bought and drank tons of Gaiter Aid during the day.

2. Fried foods. Probably along side with soda pop in fattening ability.

3. Potatos. Especially mashed. Ear rice or corn.

4. Bread. I once had a girl after me who was way too plump. One time at dinner she said that she loved her bread. Dropped considering her as wife.

5. Ice cream. I know, you will die first. Try to make it a once a month treat.

Is there no self-accountability? (1)

netwarerip (2221204) | more than 2 years ago | (#40015049)

Impressive study, but why will no one accept blame for their own actions? We know fast food is bad, but still eat it. We know sitting on the couch with an Xbox controller for hours on end is bad, but won't go outside and shoot some hoops, or take a walk, etc.

It's like everything else; it's not my fault, I have a 'disease', I can't control it. Food is too cheap. Restaurants serve too much.

(This post was written while sitting in a chair, drinking coffee, having a cheese danish, and ordering a pizza for lunch.)
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